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Paul Koralek (1933-2020)

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AA alumnus and co-founder of ABK architects, Paul Koralek, has died aged 86. Paul joined the AA in 1951. His desk in first year was positioned alongside the desks of Peter Ahrends and Richard Burton, and a close friendship began that was to last a lifetime. After completing their AA Diploma in 1956 they gained a scholarship to explore the architecture of Turkey and Persia for 5 months. Arriving in Isfahan unannounced, they knocked on the door of an older AA alumnus, Ali Baktiar, who welcomed them in his home and hosted them for 6 weeks. A beautiful record of that stay was published years later in 2016, with photographs by John Donat who joined them on the trip.

After brief periods working for Powell and Moya and for Marcel Breuer, in 1961 Paul Koralek won a major competition for the Berkeley Library at Trinity College, Dublin, which prompted the three friends to come together to form Ahrends Burton and Koralek, and over the following four decades they went on to make an important contribution to higher education architecture in the UK. Paul was responsible for the Arts Faculty building, also at Trinity College, a building for St Andrew’s College, Booterstown, and Portsmouth Polytechnic Library amongst others. ABK won the competition for the National Gallery extension in London, which was infamously described by Prince Charles as a “monstrous carbuncle on the face of a much-loved elegant friend” triggering the commission of the existing extension by Venturi Scott Brown. They were also instrumental in the first stages of master planning for the AA’s Hooke Park campus, bringing Frei Otto on board to collaborate with them on the design of the prototype house (now the Hooke Park Refectory) and the main workshop building.

Paul passed away on 7 February 2020 and is survived by two daughters, Katy Ricks and Lucy Linderoth. Any AA member or alumni wishing to get in touch with the family and/or to attend the funeral in Sussex on 5 March should contact the AA membership office on membership@aaschool.ac.uk for further information.


 

Robert Millar Maxwell (1922-2020)

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The AA is sorry to hear that Robert M (Bob) Maxwell, teacher, author, architect and dear friend of the AA, passed away on 2 January 2020.

Bob Maxwell was Emeritus Professor of Architecture at Princeton University for 11 years from 1982 and he taught at the Bartlett for 20 years before that. He first entered the AA in 1958, where he was Year Master until 1962 whilst working as an architect in London. He joined the L.C.C. where he worked on the Royal Festival Hall extensions and later, as a Partner in Douglas Stephen & Partners, he participated in the design of the Brunel Centre, Swindon, and apartments at Highgate. He remained close to the school throughout his life, serving on the AA Council 1963-65 and 1977-80 (including a year as AA Vice President), and he returned to the AA after Princeton to teach the history of Modern architecture course from 1994 to 2006. He was elected an AA Honorary Member in 2012.

Bob died suddenly in his beloved Aix-en-Provence (France). He had been on very good form, at various parties with family and friends over Christmas.

The Architectural Association has launched an appeal to install a piano dedicated to Bob Maxwell in the Front Members’ Room at the AA. Donate at: www.crowdfunder.co.uk/a-piano-dedicated-to-bob-maxwell


 

Edward Cullinan (1931-2019)

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‘The design of buildings is a social act…Design and building of necessity involves co-operation.’

Edward Cullinan Architects, 1965

On long car journeys with his uncle Mervyn as a boy, Edward Cullinan (forever known as Ted) was encouraged to study architecture, rather than become a doctor like his father and grandfather. These active observation sessions along the Kingston bypass clearly took root.

Having obtained an Anderson and Webb scholarship to attend the Cambridge School of Architecture where he was introduced to Modernism, Cullinan decided to migrate to the Architectural Association for his final two years of study. The AA marked a great shift from Cambridge; Modernism was not taught by rote, but rather was being actively advanced by a host of young, practising tutors. Taught principally by Denys Lasdun, with whom he would go on to work, and Peter Smithson, Cullinan was given room to develop his own expressive response to modernist pedagogy. 

In 2010, reflecting on a pilgrimage made by bicycle to Le Corbusier’s Notre Dame du Haut in Ronchamp in 1955, Cullinan stated that he had ‘no idea that architectural form could reach this level of sophistication and profundity and feeling’. It was the ‘feeling’, however, that would resonate most significantly throughout his life and career. Tempered by the experiments of Modernism that were, he believed, ‘always done on those who can’t protest’, his political inclinations towards libertarian socialism and anarchism permeated his deeply human architecture and catalysed the establishment of his office, Edward Cullinan Architects, as a co-operative in 1965.

Departing from the machinic precision of his tutors, Cullinan developed an architecture that was driven by social and ecological imperatives. Westminster Lodge, at Hooke Park in Dorset, with its green timber frame and collective system of inhabitation, succinctly embodies the principles that have remained so critical to the design work of the office. Though originally designed for the Parnham Trust in 1995, the AA purchased Hooke Park in 2002 and as such the building has inadvertently become an intrinsic part of the fabric of the school, continuously occupied to this day.

Cullinan was amicably derided by Smithson as being ‘a bit hand-knitted’ for his woody, un-polished architectural sensibilities. Such qualities, however, were the result of careful design, driven by a desire for beauty, social equality and ecological sustainability. His meticulous eye, not just for architectural form but also for human sensitivity, his fluency in translating ideas through drawing and his desire to develop knowledge in others saw his inspirational and highly influential work recognised with a RIBA Gold Medal in 2008. It is for these reasons that his office was for many years ranked as the most respected practice in the country, and for which Ted Cullinan himself, as a manifestly generous and modest individual, will forever be remembered.

 


 

Charles Jencks (1939–2019)

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‘He is one of the fixed stars of the critical firmament now, almost certainly doomed to receive an AIA medal and – dammit – he's 42!’

Reyner Banham, 1980

Declared an enfant terrible early on in his career, Charles Jencks never did suffer the fate of unanimous institutional and professional acceptance predicted by his mentor. As a perpetual trend-spotter, polemicist and critic who remained obsessively up to date, he endured as a ‘historian of what happened between his last two heart beats’ and, throughout the course of his life, continually outran the younger and more terrible enfants that approached from behind.

Having moved to London in 1965 to pursue his PhD at University College London with Reyner Banham, Jencks began teaching at the Architectural Association in 1967 as part of the Department of Arts and History. Later becoming General Studies under Alvin Boyarsky, the prospectus notes that these courses ‘tend to reflect the enthusiasm of their organisers’ and that ‘no attempt is made to cover areas of knowledge, however useful or beneficial they might seem to be’. As an exceptionally committed and enthusiastic organiser, it is fair to suggest that Jencks’ courses were responsible for benefitting and improving the knowledge of countless students that passed through the school for more than two decades in his role as a tutor, and many more subsequently as he continued to give regular guest lectures.

It was at the AA during these years that two seminal events in his life almost coincided. Writing for the quarterly journal in 1975, Jencks first, and reluctantly, coined the term ‘Post Modern’. Though initially dissatisfied with the negative prefix, the capital P and M were put in place and the hyphen would soon follow as ‘Post-Modernism’ took on a life of its own, guided, moderated and interrogated by its godfather. At around the same time, Jencks met Maggie Keswick, a student at the school. The pair went on to work together in designing the extraordinary Garden of Cosmic Speculation at Portrack House and other landscape projects, as well as the first of the Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centres following her terminal diagnosis with the disease in 1993.

Dedicated eternally to plurality, complexity and the capacity of architecture to ameliorate lives at both a personal and societal level, the legacy of Charles Jencks will no doubt be as diverse, as rich and as filled with enthusiasm as his life and career.

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Former AA Tutor, Charlies Jencks (1939-2019) Obituary


 

Arefeh Sanaei (1991 – 2019)

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It is with the deepest regret that we inform the AA School Community, alumni and our global family of the sad passing of Arefeh Sanaei (AA Dipl 2019).

Arefeh was a deeply loved member of our student body since she entered the First Year in 2011, and pursued her design projects and AA studies with a deep passion and commitment through the Second and Third Years with Samantha Hardingham, David Greene and Valentin Bontjes van Beek.  Undertaking her Diploma studies with Kate Davies, Liam Young, Samantha Hardingham and John Walter, we all shared her joy just a few short months ago in June when she was awarded the AA Diploma for her Fifth Year project undertaken with Ann-Sofi Ronnskog and John Palmesino.

Arefeh really loved doing collages, she was proud of her work - arefeh-sanaei.squarespace.com

As the AA was such an important part of Arefeh's life, so too was she in ours. Our thoughts today are with Arefeh's family as they mourn the loss of their beloved only daughter. On behalf of her many, many AA friends I extend our deepest sympathies at this saddest of times.

Farewell dear Ari.

Thank you for your beautiful smile and for enriching our AA world.   

You will always be in our thoughts and forever in our hearts.


 

Enrique Limon (1962 – 2019)

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Enrique Limon, or Rick to those who knew him, sadly passed away in New York on 20 September 2019 after complications with colon cancer. Rick graduated from the AA’s DRL programme in 1997, following previous studies at Columbia University and University of Southern California, and he has been a professor at Pratt Institute since 2004. He was founder and principal of limonLAB, a Manhattan-based urban laboratory dedicated to experimentation in architecture and design, and an associate of GroundLab, the collaborative platform directed by AA Landscape Urbanism tutors Jose Alfredo Ramirez and Clara Oloriz. A memorial service has been organised by family and friends on 26 October 2019, the day of Rick’s 57th birthday, from 4 to 6 pm at Higgins Hall in the Pratt University Brooklyn Campus, to which everyone is welcome.

(Image: Courtesy Pratt)


 

Navid Maqami (1959 - 2019)

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Alumnus and AA Member Navid Maqami, prolific New York architect and cofounder of S9 Architecture, has sadly passed away aged 59 after a yearlong battle with cancer. Born in Iran and raised in the United Kingdom from age 13, Maqami joined the AA in 1979. He studied two years under Stephen Gage from 1980 to 1982, and graduated in 1984 from Peter Cook and Christine Hawley’s Diploma Unit. He moved to New York in 1987, where he has been responsible for some of the city’s most celebrated projects of the last decade, including the recently completed Dock 72, towering 16 stories above the East River in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.


 

Ranieri Fontana-Giusti (1962-2019)

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The AA extends its deepest condolences to alumna and former tutor Gordana Korolija Fontana-Giusti on the passing of her husband, AA alumnus Ranieri Fontana-Giusti. Ranieri graduated from Peter Salter’s Unit at the AA in 1993 and worked in Rome for Massimiliano Fuksas and for Fletcher Priest Architects in London, before joining KPF in the late 1990’s. Over the last 20 years he played a key role in developing KPF’s practice throughout Europe, with recent projects in Paris and Milan.

The following tribute was given by Jamie von Klemperer, President of Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, at Ranieri’s funeral in March 2019.

I speak for the many colleagues at KPF who knew Ranieri the Architect, both as a designer and as a builder. He worked alongside of us for over 12 years.

We all knew there was something special about this man, something extraordinary. But what was it that allowed him to lift our spirits, not just in light-hearted moments, or on dull days of London rain, but even in the darkest of times? 

First, I think of Ranieri’s innate generosity, his kindness in teaching the younger architects who sat at their desks surrounding his workspace in our Covent Garden studio. They owed much of their happiness in the profession to his consistent care in tutoring, and his ability to encourage. When his health began to fail, one of his first acts was to enthusiastically coach a younger colleague to take on his responsibilities.  He spoke about the happiness he found in her success, never about his own misfortune. In this age of aggressive self-promotion, he instinctively put others first.

Second, I remember Ranieri’s love of beauty - his appreciation for the details of our physical world:  how the sun streams through the panes of a skylight, how angular shapes play off of each other in perspective. The exquisite hand drawings of his student days manifested this. The physical connections and geometries of buildings were especially important to him.

In our London office, Ranieri had established a small colony dedicated to French projects. As our Franco Italian representative, he made us feel at home on the Continent. His major works included a tower in Milan, a courtyard office building for the French Ministry of Justice, and the recently completed “Window”, a ground-scraper headquarters for the French national electrical authority situated next to the Grande Arche of La Défense. 

Ranieri pursued his aesthetic sense not only in his professional work, but also in his art. Through his photographs and paintings he searched for patterns and colours in nature, seeing the profound in the everyday - in the movement of water, the branches of trees, and the configuration of clouds. His Instagram posts traced an aesthetic voyage, as they also chronicled the path of his illness. 

Like many, I valued and admired Ranieri’s great gifts of loyalty. He stayed true to a clear purpose. He often expressed his love of his parents, his brothers, and the heritage of his Italian and French cultural backgrounds. His own nuclear family was the true centre of his life. When he spoke of Gordana and Sofia, a certain glint of light came into his eyes. He was so admiring of their accomplishments in Architectural Theory and in Pharmacology and took great pride when describing their successes. It was clear that he considered himself a very fortunate man. 

And I remember his strength: In Ranieri’s work as an architect he was not afraid to fight for what he believed to be right. He liked the sometimes contentious “sport” of building. He enjoyed the world of gritty sites, mud caked construction boots, and the builders’ colourful profanities. I recall him remarking with great admiration how one of our client representatives had learned to swear effectively in three languages. 

Ranieri brought this soldier-like strength and courage to his fight with cancer. Though only his family can understand the true bravery of this epic battle, his friends who observed this period of his life were also in awe of his fortitude and uncomplaining optimism, which he exhibited even in the most dire of situations. Those who witnessed his unfailing resolve, displayed over a period of two and a half years, were left with a profound sense of admiration and gratitude. Ranieri taught us all about the value of life, and the dignity with which we can hope to face its end. 

Finally, I’d like to say something about his grace and elegance. He lived in an era when most people don’t seem to understand the meaning of that concept. In his noble attitude and general bearing, he reminded me of the phrase of Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Ranieri was not bound by the limitations of the mundane. He seemed to search for something bigger, to rise above the commonplace.

In the time that I knew Ranieri, I sensed in him a quest for a lofty place. On sites in London, Milan, Paris, and Lyon, Ranieri devoted his efforts to the realization of tall buildings. The architectural project of which he was the most proud, the Tour First in La Défense, is the tallest structure on the skyline of Paris. He revelled in the triangular complexities of its plan, and marvelled at the laciness of its diaphanous pinnacle.

Similarly, in his art Ranieri expressed a special fascination with height. In small square compositions of textured colours, he clearly separated the ground from the sky. He painted strong horizon lines, sometimes brooding, sometimes calm. One got the sense that he was exploring something profound about our place on this earth.

One year ago, I took a long walk with Ranieri on Primrose Hill, the favourite place from which he could broadly survey the metropolis of London. He had good energy that day, and seemed optimistic about his condition. At the peak of the hill, we paused to survey the panoramic landscape. On that sunny early spring afternoon, looking south over parklands and rooftops to the glinting spires in the distance, his spirit seemed to soar like a bird. 

And that is how I will remember him.


 

Edgar Forrest Jessee (1977 - 2019)

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The AA is saddened to learn of the passing of Edgar Forrest Jessee (former AA student), who died peacefully Sunday 2 June 2 2019, surrounded by his adoring family.

After attending Parsons School of Design and the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London from 2003 -2005, Forrest received a Master of Architecture degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation.

Forrest started his career at Mike Jacobs Architecture Inc. in New York and then went on to work with the design firm Diller, Scofidio, & Renfro. Forrest was a freelance designer for Columbia and Harvard Universities. His professional achievements include the creation of the Sleep Suit, the Little Free Library of NYC and the book design of The Lincoln Center, Inside Out as well as The High Line Book, receiving prestigious International awards for both of those works.

He was beloved and a genuine friend to all. He is survived by his parents, Dr. and Mrs. Edgar Forrest Jessee Jr.; sisters, Lindsay Jessee Slaughter (Matthew) and Sara Jessee Meredith (Massie); brother, Charles Blake Jessee (Michelle); nephew, Willis Rudd Parsons IV; and niece, Charlotte Rebecca Slaughter.


 

Khalid al Qasimi (1980 - 2019)

The AA has learnt that Khalid al Qasimi, son of Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, the ruler of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates, has very sadly passed away aged 39. Khalid was an AA student with Shin Egashira in 2000/01, before joining Central Saint Martins. In recent years he became a leading figure in the London fashion scene, his spring/summer 2020 collection showcasing at London fashion week only three weeks ago to great critical acclaim. His Qasimi studio sits between Tottenham Court Road and Morwell Street - overlooking the AA barrel vault - and he retained links to architecture through his work on the Sharjah Architecture Triennial and Sharjah Urban Planning Council. Our sincere condolences to the family, and to all the members of the AA community here in London and the UAE who will feel his loss keenly.


 

Peter Keith Collymore (1929 – 2019)

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It is with great sadness the AA learns of Peter Keith Collymore's (AADipl 1955) passing on 25 March 2019. This obituary has been written by Bob Allies, May 2019 - 

In 1962 Peter Collymore, who has died at the age of 89, formed an association with three other sole practitioners: John Winter, Michael Brawne and Charlotte Baden-Powell.

Conceived with the specific aim of allowing them - whenever the opportunity arose - to collaborate on larger projects, it failed to bear fruit in this way. It did however provide a basis for sharing space, staff (I was not unusual in working for all of them at some point), equipment, refreshments and jokes, in a relationship that was to last throughout their professional careers, and that would also survive two physical transplantations: one from Charlotte Street, in Fitzrovia, to Earlham Street in Covent Garden (then largely empty and abandoned), and a second to a converted ice-cream factory in Gospel Oak, still home to architects today.

Over the years, at different times, further architects congregated around them, including Adrian Gale, Patrick Hodgkinson, Peter Wadley, Michael Glickman, Edward Samuel and Dean la Tourelle, as well as Chris Cross and Adrian Sansom (with whom the Earlham Street studio was shared) and one non-architect, Victoria Thornton, then just starting out on the venture which was ultimately to evolve into Open House (now Open City).

What seems striking now is the way in which all this group of architects sustained delicately poised - and no doubt sometimes alarmingly precarious - careers, carefully balanced between practice, teaching and writing, an inspirational model for the itinerant group of young architects, like me, who worked for and around them. The friendly and informal atmosphere that the studio engendered was also one which entirely suited Peter’s character. Always interested, always supportive, and with an irrepressible cheerfulness, Peter was at once the ideal colleague and perfect employer.

Peter Collymore was the son of a Lancing College schoolmaster and having grown up in Sussex he also chose to return there when he retired from practice. But he went away to school - to Marlborough College - where his talent for, and pleasure in, art (and cricket) were nurtured, and where he first met Neave Brown, who was to become a life-long friend.

From Marlborough he went first to Clare College Cambridge, and then to the Architectural Association, graduating in 1955 in a cohort that also included Patrick Hodgkinson, David Gray, John Miller and Ken Frampton. From the AA, Collymore - like so many of his contemporaries -  went to the States in search of modernism, spending a year with Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, before returning to England and taking up a post with Robert Matthew Johnson-Marshall and Partners as part of the team working on (the still remarkable) New Zealand House, in London’s Haymarket.Peter Collymore

Writing in the early 1980s about the association with Winter, Brawne and Baden-Powell, Collymore observed that they did not “specialise in any particular field of architecture, but tackle(d) all kinds of work, for a wide variety of clients from local authorities to private individuals”. It’s true, their work was diverse, both in terms of building type and physical location, but in Collymore’s case it was dominated by the private house, of which he built more than fifteen (including one for himself in Highbury Terrace Mews) and adapted many more. His particular interest in working with existing buildings was evidenced in the book he wrote for the Architectural Press in 1975 on ‘House Conversion and Renewal’.

But Collymore’s most important commission came when he was asked by Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears to oversee a series of adjustments and extensions to the new home that they had recently acquired (1957) on the edge of Aldeburgh, the Red House. Among Collymore’s output at the Red House was a sturdy little brick cottage designed for the artist Mary Potter, but the most significant of his projects was the library and rehearsal room that he created for Britten and Pears. Now carefully maintained and looked after by the Britten-Pears Foundation, it is open to visitors. 

Collymore placed the new library on the site of an old barn, retaining part of the original walls as well as re-using the surviving pier footings as bases for his new timber columns, with their four outspreading arms. At once intimate and generous, the new space provided Britten and Pears with exactly the atmosphere they required.Collymore wrote about architecture throughout his career, guest editing four editions of the Architectural Review, and in 1982 he published a monograph on the work of Ralph Erskine, the product of a lengthy – and undoubtedly enjoyable – series of conversations between the two men.

Collymore’s appreciation of the work of others extended particularly into the field of painting, and before he died he gifted his collection – including works by Eileen Agar, Prunella Clough, Anthony Hill, Paul Huxley, Paul Nash and William Scott - to Pallant House Gallery in Chichester. A selection of the work was exhibited in the gallery under the title ‘An Architect’s Eye: the gift of Peter Collymore’ at the end of 2017.

Peter is survived by his sister Gill, who was for many years the editorial administrator of the Architectural Press.

Peter Collymore


 

Ashley Barker (1927 - 2019)

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The AA extends its deepest condolences to the family of Ashley Barker OBE FSA FRIBA (AADipl(Hons) 1949) who passed away peacefully in Cornwall on 11th March 2019 in his 92nd year.


 

John Andrews (1950 - 2019)

Artist, Architect, an inspirational and influential teacher, John Andrews studied and taught at the Architectural Association. He came to the AA from the Chelsea School of Art in 1974, and joined Bernard Tschumi’s Unit, and then Fred Scott and Robin Evans’ Unit from which he graduated with AA Diploma Honours. He was the founder, with Trish Pringle, of the London Summer School, which they taught at the AA in the summer of 1978. The outlines of the metanarrative of his architectural life can be seen in the programme of that summer school, which he later explored and refined in the Unit he taught with Robin Evans and Jonathan Wimpenny. Drawings, texts, films and objects were used to notate an intricate choreography of the life of the city, record its legends and rumours, and capture the way in which they are all experienced. Doorways, passages, halls, rooms and galleries were to be designed to provoke imagination and to construct reality. 

John was Unit Master at the AA from 1980 to 1989, and had many other collaborators including Tony Fretton and Charlie Mann over those years. He had a way of bringing about unlikely conversations that featured friends and provocateurs including Dalibor Vesely, Gordon Pask, Warren Chalk and Robin Evans. He was a master of ephemera, in which he found hidden connections to the larger concerns of society. His own drawings and paintings were exquisite, elegant and evocative. He had an intuitive way of working, collecting the discarded ephemera of a culture, transposing them to new contexts and assembling new configurations and constructions, a highly individual inverse ‘cargo cult’ that reflected upon social relationships with spaces, material objects and technology. It was his view that the work of the architect is to create spatial artefacts that cannot be apprehended from afar, but experienced from the inside, memories of experience embodied in constructed narratives that conjure new realities.

He taught and lectured all across the world; Cornell, the Pratt Institute, and Columbia, Texas and Mexico City and in Australia where he became Professor of Interior Design at RMIT Australia where he made a significant contribution and is remembered with great affection. He taught and inspired so many and in so many places, and was always generous with his time and attention. He certainly was an indefatigable traveller, but he was quintessentially a Londoner, and he knew its nervous system better than his own. And most particularly, he was part of the AA from the day he arrived in September 1974 until his death in February 2019.

He was my tutor for one amazing year. I went with him on a long trip around Mexico, and under his guidance made strange paintings and objects, and discovered the surrealist architect Edward James, and endlessly reread the William Burroughs trilogy of Cities of the Red Night. On the night train to Veracruz we talked of Burroughs’ 1000 imaginary cities of the Gobi desert and the magical realism of Borges and The Garden of Forking Paths. I can see him now, elegantly dressed and lazily strolling at dawn, a smile on his face, through the broken crockery on the streets of Oaxaca after the crazy Night of the Radishes festival.

He was an extraordinary man, a traveller of the roads less trodden, a master of hidden connections, a conjurer and provocateur of the imagination, an inspiration. Like so many others who worked or studied with John, whose lives were touched and changed by that encounter, I count my life richer for having known him. I never knew anyone more present in the moment, nor more filled with madness at the joy of being alive.

Michael Weinstock

February 24th, 2019

There will be an event at the Architectural Association remembering John Andrews on Saturday 16 March - the event is open to anyone who knew him. Find out more

His drawings, exhibitions, installations, designs and publications are archived here: https://www.johnandrews.london

Image above: Flat Shore, South Australia, 2004, Watercolour on 300gsm Arches paper, 78 x 38 


 

Robert Maguire (1931 - 2019)

Maguire receiving award from Clement Attlee

It is with great sadness the AA learns of alumnus Robert Maguire’s passing. Maguire studied at the AA from 1948 – 1953 and graduated with an AA Diploma Honours. He was awarded the Howard Colls Travelling Studentship for his First Year portfolio, which he used it to undertake a grand tour of England and Wales by bike. The accompanying picture shows this award being handed to Maguire by the then Prime Minister, Clement Attlee.

Read Gerry Adler’s obituary of Robert Maguire on the Architect’s Journal website


 

Florence Knoll (1917 - 2019)

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The AA is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of former AA student Florence Knoll who died on 25 January 2019 aged 101.

This obituary is written by Dr Ana Araujo (AA Unit Master) who is currently working on a book on Florence Knoll, as part of an ongoing research on the contribution of women to the field of architecture and design.

One of the strongest memories of her childhood, she recalled, was looking at blueprints on her father’s desk: ‘They seemed enormous to a five year old, but nonetheless, I was enchanted by them’. This was 1922, the same year Frederick E. Schust passed away. Perhaps out of an unconscious desire to honour this special moment, Florence Knoll (née Schust) would, some ten years later, stand out as the only girl in her class to choose architecture as a profession. By this time her mother had also died, and she had become a boarding student at Cranbrook (Detroit), an educational community led by celebrated Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen.   

Her career had an early start. She designed her first house age fifteen (including ‘plans, elevations, models and interiors’). Eliel Saarinen would come by every now and then to give her advice; textile designer Loja, Eliel’s wife, helped with the furnishings; and their son Eero, at the time a student at Yale University, taught Florence lessons in architectural history illustrated with his own sketches. Virtually adopted by the family, Florence often travelled with the Saarinens to their summer house in Finland, Hvittrask, and to various other places in Europe and around the world. In one of these trips she met Alvar Aalto, who advised her to enrol at the AA for her formal architectural training. Florence spent three years in London, but had to precociously interrupt her studies and go back to the US because of the war. Upon her return, she took a one-year internship in the office of Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer before finishing her studies at the Illinois Institute of Technology, where she would meet future collaborator Mies van der Rohe.

After graduation Florence moved to New York, and started freelancing for various architectural firms. ‘Being the only female’, she remembered, ‘I was assigned to the few interiors required’. While working for Harrison, Abramovitz and Fouilhoux, she met Hans Knoll. Recently arrived from Europe, and being part of a dynasty of German furniture manufacturers, Hans had just launched his own furniture company, with the mission of introducing the new modernist trends to the US market. He and Florence soon started an informal collaboration (Florence would help with the interior projects), and by 1946 she had become Hans’s partner in business and in life, acting as director of design at Knoll Associates. Her vision for the company was bold and ambitious. It was under Florence’s influence that the Knolls would commission furniture pieces from designers such as Harry Bertoia, Mies van der Rohe and her old friend Eero Saarinen. She played a crucial role in promoting the work of these and of many other designers, today considered to be amongst the most iconic of the twentieth century. Florence was also an accomplished furniture designer herself, even though she humbly described her work as a mere complement to the standout pieces of her male colleagues.

As the design director of Knoll Associates, Florence was also in charge of supervising Knoll Textiles, a division which revolutionised the field of furnishing interiors, adapting it to the functional demands and aesthetic vision of the modern world (she is also known to have invented the practice of folding a piece of cardboard around a cut of three-inch square fabrics and stapling them together as a means to create a textile sample).

Notwithstanding all the above-mentioned deeds, some consider that Florence Knoll’s most important contribution to the field of design was achieved not through her work with furniture or textiles but through the Knoll Planning Unit – the division of Knoll Associates in charge of interiors. With Hans’s cunning business skills, the Rockefellers were amongst their first clients. ‘It was sort of starting at the top’, as she used to say. Other prestigious commissions included offices for IBM, CBS, General Motors, Heinz, and many others. With the Planning Unit Florence proposed a whole new methodology for working with interiors. She followed a rigorous design method, producing a style which became known as ‘humanized modernism’: the combination of an extremely effective and economical use of space – customized to the specific needs of the client – with the creation of a warm, refined atmosphere, highlighted by the inclusion of plants, textiles and artworks.

When the work of Knoll Associates reached a peak in the mid 1950s, Hans Knoll tragically died in a car accident in Havana, Cuba, while overseeing a Planning Unit scheme for the American Embassy. Florence assumed the direction of the company, staying in this position until her early retirement, age 48, in 1965. By 1958 Florence had remarried. She met her second husband Harry Hood Bassett, a banker from Miami, while working on a project for him. Following her retirement in 1965, Florence relocated to Florida and led a relatively quiet life. She did a few other projects, mostly residential, which, interestingly, display a softer design idiom than the one she employed while working at Knoll.

Florence was the recipient many design and architectural awards, including the National Medal of Arts, the American Institute of Architects’ Industrial Design Gold Medal and the Red Dot Design Award. Her colleagues remember her for her extreme precision, unparalleled sense of style and for her relentless pursuit of the highest standards in everything she did. Acclaimed by The New York Times in 1964 as ‘the single most powerful figure in the field of modern design’, Florence Knoll’s contribution remains ubiquitous, yet to a great degree unacknowledged. It is our hope that she will in the near future come to occupy the place she deserves in our history.

Images courtesy of Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan


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The Architectural Association, Inc. is incorporated as a company limited by guarantee (No.171402) and registered as a charity (No. 311083). Registered office: 36 Bedford Square, London WC1B 3ES, 020 7887 4000

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THE AA RECEIVES THE POWER TO AWARD ITS OWN DEGREES

The Architectural Association receives Taught Degree Awarding Powers by the Lords of Her Majesty’s Most Honourable Privy Council.

The Architectural Association (AA), the oldest independent school of architecture in the United Kingdom, is pleased to announce that it has been granted the power to award its own degrees. As of 1 October 2019, the AA has the right to establish new academic programmes and degree awards and is working to create some of the world’s most pioneering courses in architecture to shape and build the future.

Taught Degree Awarding Powers (TDAP) give UK higher education institutions the right to award bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Prospective students worldwide can apply to the AA Foundation Course (Foundation Diploma), Experimental Programme BA(Hons), Diploma Programme (MArch), and nine taught postgraduate programmes encompassing History and Critical Thinking in Architecture (MA), Projective Cities (Taught MPhil) and Sustainable Environmental Design (MSc/MArch), amongst others.

AA Director, Eva Franch said, ‘since our founding in 1847 we have never ceased to create new horizons, institutionally and academically. This is a significant milestone for the AA and demonstrates how we have grown and progressed as an institution that has always valued independence. Receiving TDAP marks a new era for our institution; these are exciting times for the AA. The process has required considerable work from all members of staff and students. I would like to take this opportunity to credit them for this major achievement’.

President of the AA Council, Victoria Thornton added, ‘the TDAP process has recognised our strong governance, academic standards, scholarship and teaching as well as the environment supporting the delivery of taught higher education programmes’.

The School’s application for Taught Degree Awarding Powers was supported by the Architects Registration Board, the Royal Institute of British Architects and The Open University.

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